For Inge! Happy birthday!
Inge wanted to see the dynamic duo as penpals becoming lovers. Here we go
Turns of Phrase
Part 1: Snail Mail (Summer 2007)
The very first lines that Eponine read of Enjolras' writing were in a typewritten reply to her inquiry about a bill just lately filed in the Senate. In hindsight she knew she should have not expected much; no one in those days paid attention to kids on a summer job, especially those detailed in one of the most forsaken public schools in the country. However she had been convinced that the dismissive answer had been composed by an incompetent seventeen year old intern (much like herself), and so she sent back an indignant demand for proper information.
She had wondered if the postal service would lose the letter; in the little roadside town she was determined to leave, snail mail and the newspaper were the only real windows to the rest of the universe, and those vantage points tended to shut all too easily whenever there were storms, floods, or anything that blocked the long highway to the capital. Two days later she received the first surprise of her summer in the form of this beautifully handwritten letter in her pigeonhole:
June 1, 2007
Dear Miss Thenardier,
Greetings! I am deeply sorry for the inadequacy of our previous efforts in answering your question. Please find enclosed here a copy of the transcript of the latest committee hearing on the Educational Materials Allocation Act. I hope that this will suffice for your purposes.
Should you have any further questions, please feel free to address them to our staff at the Information Desk, courtesy of Mr. Alexandre Enjolras.
We are glad to be of assistance to our constituents.
Mrs. Ingrid Veuvain
Chief Of Staff, Office of Senator Lamarque
Accompanying this letter had been twenty painstakingly encoded pages of the committee's proceedings, from start to finish. The very next day, despite being sleepless from carefully studying this text, she went to work early to type this reply.
June 8, 2007
Dear Mr. Enjolras,
Good day. I wish to extend my apologies for my previous letter. It was not my intention to offend Senator Lamarque, Mrs. Veuvain or anyone else on the staff.
I am thanking your office for the transcript of the meeting. My boss has said that it will be useful for the school superintendent's research and upcoming project proposals for the district school. However he is requesting for copies of the tables and figures presented in the committee hearing. Is it possible for your office to please furnish this information, but in hard copy? We do not have an Internet connection in this office, and our fax machine is broken.
Thank you for your considerate response.
Ms. Eponine Thenardier
This time she had feared that the letter was lost entirely; there had been several accidents on the road involving the mail trucks. 'Maybe so much the better, so he won't know how embarrassing our office really is,' she thought as she surveyed her dismal workplace, particularly the broken down table where she'd scrawled her first letter. Yet one morning, nearly three weeks after she'd first posted this letter, she found this typewritten missive in the school's mailbox, accompanying a thick yellow envelope.
June 15, 2005
To Miss Thenardier,
This is in reply to your letter dated June 8, 2007. Attached to this letter are twenty graphs in full color from the presentation. There are additional pages containing the footnotes that accompanied the figures. Please inform me immediately if there are missing pages or any gaps with the data.
Mr. A. Enjolras
As she read the letter once more before handing to her boss, Eponine couldn't help but wonder why the writer of this missive was so insistent on typing when clearly his superior wasn't. 'Perhaps he has horrible handwriting,' she thought amusedly to herself. Then again could she expect anything less but stiff formality from someone named 'Alexandre'. It was all she could do not to ask him about it when she wrote back to thank him, and to further some more questions raised by her boss.
Nevertheless he graciously wrote back, spurring her to send more letters, including some of her own questions about the task at hand. When the summer was over and she picked p that last brown envelope containing her meagre allowance, she checked the pigeonholes for the letters, only to find them in the wastebin. As quickly as she could she snatched them up and stuffed them in her satchel, right before the custodian could take away everything for the shredders.
Part 2: Email (Autumn 2009)
It had been Courfeyrac's idea to start the blog, both as a means of documenting their charity project as well as a venue for Bossuet and Grantaire to practice their web design skills. Nevertheless the part of webmaster and chief columnist soon fell to Enjolras, owing mostly to the fact that he did not pull any punches with his words.
"No matter what, you have to do the research. It's an opinion blog, but it has to be more than just venting," Combeferre gently advised him the day they launched the site. Enjolras had to agree; after all he needed his work to do more than just appeal to the emotions. 'It has to actually stick and stand up to a debate,' he told himself one night, or rather very early morning in October.
It should have been a straightforward task to look up statistics on the minimum wages being implemented in various regions across the country. However the past few hours had only resulted in his consuming what must have amounted to a small barrel's worth of coffee, all the while fending off his roommates' attempts to get him to sleep. The hands on the clock had begun to blur by the time he came across an article neatly outlining the impact of reduced wages on the quality of life in the most remote communities, especially with regard to the children. As formal and technical as the piece was, there was still something in the lilt and cadence of the words that had him searching for the writer's email address. When he finally found it, he had to rub his eyes to ensure that he wasn't seeing things, or that he hadn't mistaken the sobriquet for one he'd seen so many months ago on wrinkled and travel-worn letters. 'How many people in this world have such a name?' he wondered as his shaky fingers tapped out this message:
To: eponine_thenardier .com
Re: Your article (10/15/2007) on QL Impact of Minimum Wages
Dear Ms Thenardier,
Greetings! I read your article posted on the website of the Center for Social Studies and Development of the Libertad Political Studies Institute. I am requesting for your permission to quote your piece in my blog article regarding the recently implemented National Compensation Scheme. If you wish, I will furnish you with a draft of the article prior to publication, as well as the finished post.
Thank you for your assistance.
As soon as he pressed the 'send' button, he fell asleep right in his desk chair. It seemed as if only a few seconds had passed before the obnoxious beeping of an email notification cut through his dreamless slumber. He immediately sat up straight and rubbed his eyes before reading this reply:
To: a_enjolras .com
Re: Your blog post
Dear Mr. Enjolras,
Hello. Thank you for reading the article. You may use the findings in the article, but please leave my name out of the citations for your post. Just state that the data came from the institute.
It was good to hear from you again.
Even though he had yet to have his morning coffee, Enjolras suddenly found himself wide awake. All lingering doubts about the identity of the writer were dispelled now with this missive; he had seen this exact, idiosyncratic way with words nearly two years ago, and nowhere else. 'Why the reticence though?' he wondered, remembering now a brash letter with words more scathing than the heat of high summer.
Within a few minutes he had composed this reply:
To: eponine_thenardier .com
Dear Ms. Thenardier,
Greetings again. This is to clarify the latest email you just sent. Is there a particular reason that you do not wish to be named as the source? The data is not confidential, and it would not be proper to let someone or something else take credit for your work.
He had expected a good deal of time, perhaps a few hours, to pass before seeing any reply, if at all. However he was still in the shower when he heard his laptop beep once again. He was still drying his hair as he sat in front of the screen, only to end up frowning at the words that greeted him as well as the water that dripped in his line of sight.
To: a_enjolras .com
Re: No citations
I should tell you that I read your blog posts before replying to your first email. You and your friends seem to like pointing out what is so wrong with the government but you do not propose actual solutions to this sort of thing. It's the same old baloney. This is why I don't want my name on your post.
By the way, it's only my job to give you the information you may need, but this does not mean that I personally agree with what you are saying. You of all people ought to know the difference.
When he looked up from reading this email, he saw Combeferre, Courfeyrac, and Jehan all crowded in the doorway of his room. "Your coffee is cold," Jehan informed him concernedly. "You shouldn't skip breakfast."
Enjolras winced when he saw the time on the computer, which read already nearly eight in the morning, leaving him only less than an hour to get ready for his classes. "I'll get something on the way out."
Combeferre raised an eyebrow when he saw what was on the computer screen. "Blog post still giving you trouble?"
"Somewhat," Enjolras replied as he closed the string of email messages. This was not the sort of exchange he expected to have with a fellow netizen, especially one who honestly couldn't have been much older than he was. Already he was making a list of journals and resources to read through, and how many cups of coffee he would have to consume later that evening. 'You'll see those solutions in spades, Eponine Thenardier,' he resolved as he got up and began readying for the day
Part 3: Networks (or lack thereof) (Autumn 2010)
"So aren't you ever going to ask that boyfriend of yours if you can meet up in person?"
Eponine rolled her eyes as she looked up from the screen of her second-hand laptop. "He's not my boyfriend, and that's a dangerous idea, Cosette. You never know who's out there nowadays."
"But this isn't? I know this isn't only for your assignments" Cosette asked, pointing to the pamphlets on Eponine's desk. "Are you two planning to run for office under a radical banner?"
"I'm just fighting him on his own turf," Eponine replied nonchalantly. She no longer remembered how the question of wages soon turned into a question on basic government services, then on taxation and the duties of a citizen, and soon on the very nature of government itself. 'It's been a year and we're still not out of things to talk about,' she thought as she returned to writing her concept paper on welfare systems in emerging economies.
Cosette sighed as she looked at her roommate. "Haven't you ever tried looking up his Facebook or Twitter accounts?"
Eponine shook her head. "He's not on those."
"I've asked, I've looked him up, and he's not there. I've asked and he told me that he doesn't believe in those things."
Cosette let out a sceptical snort as she picked up her purse. "And you aren't the least bit curious?"
"Should I be?" Eponine asked. She was sure that her friend didn't know of the collection of newspaper articles in one of her desk drawers, all of them authored supposedly by Alexandre Enjolras. The writing style was consistent; every word was imbued with more fire and insight than she sometimes got out of her academic lectures with so-called experts. Yet he always had very little written about him in the 'about the author' sections: that he was as of now, just approaching his twenty-first birthday, that he was taking up Political Science at a prestigious university, and that he had just scored another internship but this time in a non profit group dedicated to civic education. 'If people knew what I know about you,' she thought, recalling a recent conversation wherein they'd poked fun at each other's guilty pleasures when it came to coffee. She had never pegged him as the sort to like very sweet mocha lattes, at least not till yesterday.
"If someone can put such a smile on your face on a daily basis, you ought to be," Cosette advised. "I'll be able to make a run by the store. Do you want anything?"
"Hot chocolate and ramen?" Eponine asked gleefully. "Who are you hanging out with on this Saturday, if that is what it really is?"
"Why did I even ask?" Cosette groaned. "It's only coffee with a guy in my class, Marius Pontmercy."
"Only coffee?" Eponine teased before having to duck a cushion her friend lobbed at her. "I got you there!" she crowed triumphantly.
"Marius does have a friend who is just as incorrigible as you," Cosette said. "You two ought to meet, who knows what can come out of that?"
"Maybe if I have time."
"Suit yourself. You ought to make time, Ponine. It would be good for you."
"Speaking of time..." Eponine said, gesturing to the clock. She snickered when she saw Cosette pale on seeing the hour before scrambling out the door. 'If that Marius fellow can look past the fact she's always late, there's hope there yet,' she mused whimsically as she gave her paper another once-over and then logged on to her email.
All of a sudden she was conscious of the way she felt a smile tugging at the corners of her lips when she caught sight of Enjolras' email address in her inbox, even if he had yet to write a new message after their lengthy conversation the night before. They had long switched from using their respective campus email addresses to their more personal ones, ever since the time four months ago when he'd accidentally filled up her message storage space by sending her one too many e-books on grassroots development. 'Haven't I got something for you today,' she thought as she attached a series of journal articles to her latest message, and typed out these words:
Re: Journals and last night.
Rise and shine!
Here are the articles you were looking up but couldn't get. Now here is your proof that conservation isn't just an environmental issue but even a question of neo-colonialism and misuse of natural resources belonging to other nations. I had thought that your university would have subscriptions to these journals. A little too radical for them?
About last night: I wish I could tell you that you're wrong. I wish I could tell you that you're silly for believing what you do about me. I wish I could say you're wrong for telling me I am somebody and will someday make a mark. But I woke up this morning realizing that maybe I'm around for a reason and it's no coincidence that I can type these words. Maybe you're right that I can defy the odds. You of all people should know.
I'm heading to work later this afternoon. Will you be online later?
After this she got back to working on her paper, all the while wondering about the young man who would hopefully open this message soon. It was already eight in the morning, and most likely he would be awake, but would he be in front of the computer now? 'I know you go to classes, I know you like shooting documentaries even if you are never in front of the camera, I know you go to work four times a week and come home so late that your emails come out as keyboard smashing. I know you've never missed a letter, not even once,' she caught herself thinking. She dearly wished that she could have a face for her mental pictures; all he had ever told her was that he had blond hair that never behaved, that he was six feet tall, and that he had more red clothes than was necessary. Even with this limited description, she was sure that he looked far better than she did.
Just as she was in the middle of a tricky paragraph she saw the email notification pop up on her screen. She gritted her teeth as she finished the sentence she was working on, and then eagerly opened this message.
Re: Journals and today
First off, thank you so much. You're amazing. I have wondered the same thing about the resources at this university. Perhaps it's not so much a question of radicalism as much a question of what the academe deems as useful for its students. Sadly in these days and time you know that it's relative. It's a more insidious censorship to filter sources based on one so-called expert's opinion of usefulness or not.
Secondly I was just about to write an apology for last night; I realized that I may have been pushy and even condescending with my insisting on your qualities. Then I saw your message. If I offended you inadvertently all the same, I am sorry for that. Yet you should know though that I did not mean to come off in that manner, and that I was only stating what I believe when it comes to you.
I wouldn't know though. I wouldn't know entirely the strength that you show in your everyday life. I wouldn't know that impossible complexity you describe to me in your messages. I wish I could understand but I would have to live twenty or more years in your shoes-and even then I don't think I could do it as well as you do.
I have two hours before I have to come in for work. Are you still there?
Try as she may, Eponine could not deny the warmth growing in her cheeks and even spreading from someplace deep in her chest as she read and reread these words. 'This, coming from someone who a lot of people look up to,' she thought with a sigh. Sometimes she found the lack of illusions in their conversations refreshing, but other times terrifying for the simple fact that they had still somehow continued their correspondence despite all their spats and limitations. That was not something most people did.
She took a deep breath before composing this reply:
Re: Just now
Glad to see you're still there!
What if one day you become the expert?
You didn't have to apologize. Sometimes that voice telling me 'no' is no that of my father in my memories but it sounds too much like my own nowadays. That is how bad that brainwashing can get.
If you think you do not have the strength, I fear I lack the passion or at least your gift for words. You could make even the most obstinate persons believe in something. That is not a thing I could do even with all I've been studying. It's as if you have fire in every letter. I wish I could believe in things as strongly as you do.
If you don't mind me asking once again, when will you ever get on some social network? You know I have accounts on some of those already, and it would make chatting a little easier.
Almost as soon as she pressed the 'send' button, she wished she could take back the message. 'You idiot! He'll either get annoyed you asked, or he'll get the idea to look you up and he won't like what he finds,' she thought. Although she was discreet on her social network profiles, she knew all too well that a quick web search would dig up the less than palatable facts of her adolescence in that small town she'd been only too glad to leave behind.
This time when she saw the message notification, she had to take a deep breath before opening it.
Becoming an expert would be nice for some in the academe, but not for me. I do not believe in simply generating knowledge without practical application, or at least without more interface with those who will truly benefit from it.
The fact that you've come so far in life shows that you can overcome everything that has ever been said to you. You are one to defy the odds. Words are one thing, but living? That is what you do so much better than most people I know.
Why are you so keen on my getting on a social network? I know the advantages of them, but I do not think they are practical for my purposes.
Eponine rolled her eyes exasperatedly at this query. 'Because I'm curious, silly,' she almost typed back but she paused, knowing this was not exactly the truth. 'Because I want to finally put a face to you. Because I want to find out if you're far away or just nearer than I thought. Because I want you to be more than words to me,' she caught herself thinking. It was true, his words and presence were everywhere: online, on paper, and of course stored up in this laptop, but none of that could entirely satisfy that inexplicable void she did not dare to name.
It took a while before she replied:
Re: And why again?
You'd be a different expert.
And about the social network thing, I'm just curious.
Even then she knew she was missing the point. He never would be like everyone else.
Part 4: That Darned Camera (Spring 2011)
He had been the one who asked to see her, and of course it had to be in the context of everything they had been writing about.
"It's a transport strike and sit-in tomorrow. We'll be there all afternoon. You could join us," Enjolras told her one night over instant messenger. They had only recently gotten around to using this, owing to the fact that Eponine had gotten another project as a research assistant, but this time her new workplace did not allow her to access her personal emails during work hours. Thankfully both of them could still log on to chat using their cellphones virtually anytime, anywhere.
This time he hoped that she would take her time with answering. This was not an event to be taken lightly, especially since there were other things besides their tempers that had been fomenting over the past few months; just that month alone a handful of intentionally peaceful gatherings had turned into minor scuffles and in one case, a full on brawl. However he could not think of any other way for her to be there, to see where their words have led up to. He had thought of not telling her about it, but it was impossible to keep such a stir hidden. 'She'd never forgive me if I didn't even mention it,' he realized as he looked around the cafe where he'd stopped for a cup of iced coffee.
Of course Eponine sent her reply within minutes, maybe even less than a minute. "The police will be watching. How are you going to get away?"
"I know the neighbourhood," he wrote back. The police's breaking up the demonstration was practically an eventuality, and so every marcher had to come prepared with his or her own escape plan. For a moment he wondered what route she would take, what streets she would dart through or eschew entirely in that mad rush for safety. If there was anyone who understood this sort of business best, it was her. Sometimes he wished that she did not have to know such things, but then again her odd and dark way of knowing things was part of why he constantly chased after her words.
"It's not that simple, and you know it," she warned him.
He sighed as he typed back, "I'll bring padding and a helmet, don't worry,"
"Not that. You'll look ridiculous, I imagine," she replied quickly. "Where will the rally be?"
"The Grand Rotonda,' he answered. It was a well-known landmark in the city, and one in close proximity to several bus terminals and a train station. "That is where everyone will converge."
Her next query came at lightning speed. "Oh. Where will you be standing?"
"Up front. I can't be anywhere else."
"I see. I'll catch you later, Alex. Boss is calling."
He gritted his teeth as he erased his message asking how he could spot her in that crowd, and instead typed back, "Alright then."
Twenty-four hours later, he understood too well what she'd meant by things not being so simple. He felt the twisting in his gut when he saw the police at the edge of the plaza even while he was giving his speech. Every nerve of his screamed to run at the first sickening smack of bodies against riot shields, but every iota of his resolve kept him standing and continuing his harangue. His eyes had watered and his nose had grown stuffy when the reek of tear gas suddenly filled the air. His back had smarted when he'd taken a hit from a truncheon aimed for Combeferre's head. His ears rang with the angry shrieks of the protestors, the crash of stones against metal and human flesh, and of course the deathly clink of police cars being shut and handcuffs closing around wrists.
And yet as Courfeyrac grabbed his arm to drag him away from the chaos he caught sight of a dark haired girl bringing out her phone to take a picture, heedless of the policeman coming up behind her, ready to strike. "Put that down!" he wanted to shout at her; capturing evidence of police brutality was a means to be subjected to brutality, if not a death sentence in itself. Yet it was not his voice that suddenly tore through the din and finally reached her ears.
"Eponine! Run!" Cosette screamed from someplace seemingly far off. The dark haired girl spun around in time to evade the arm set on grabbing her and then swiftly dealt her would-be-arrestor a right hook to the eye. She managed to dart away for a few paces before running headlong into a squad of policemen in full riot gear.
"No!" Enjolras shouted as he broke away from Courfeyrac's grip and sprinted to her, determined to pull her away from the truncheons and handcuffs. Yet with his clouded vision he could not manage it, at least in time to keep her from being knocked to the ground and dragged off by her hair despite her howls of protest.
He could feel his eyes growing gritty as he finally reached where she had been standing, and found her phone on the ground, somehow sustaining only a few scratches and scuff marks in the commotion. 'This was a story you didn't have to tell,' he thought as he looked through the pictures she had been taking, almost from the very beginning of the event.
He pocketed the phone and saw Marius hugging his disconsolate girlfriend. "You know her?" he managed to say.
Cosette looked up and nodded. "She's my roommate. The one I've been telling you about."
Enjolras cringed, wondering why he had never bothered to try to make the connection after all this time. "Go regroup with the others. I'll catch up with you later."
"Enjolras? Where are you going?" Marius asked.
Enjolras didn't answer for a moment, being too busy with getting the Bluetooth on his phone to work so he could transfer the pictures from Eponine's phone to his. "Setting things right," he replied, all the while hoping that he would not arrive too late.
Part 5: Face (Spring 2011)
She had ended up in jail, just as her father had said she always would. 'At least it was for something other than the family business,' Eponine told herself over and over as she tried to rub some feeling back into her hands, which had been bound for the second time that morning alone. Her knuckles were raw and bleeding; in fact she was sure it would only be a matter of time till bone started showing through.
She winced as she managed to stand on tiptoe in order to catch a fleeting look at the world outside through the tiny window in her cell. The sun was high and bright in the sky, chasing away the last tang lingering from an early morning rain shower. 'How long have I been here?" she wondered. From what she remembered of the rise and fall of darkness she had probably been in solitary confinement for a week, but the ache in her arms and the tattered state of her clothes made her feel as if she had been in the shadow for months.
Suddenly she heard the clatter of her cell door being slid open. "It's your arraignment today, Miss Thenardier," the chief of police growled. "Now is your last chance to cooperate."
"I still don't know anything, Mr. Gisquet," Eponine replied as she turned to look her interrogator in the eye. Never mind if she had been told when she was a young girl that this was a bad move; for one thing she was not that little child anymore.
"Prefect Gisquet to you, young lady," the chief of police snapped as he marched over to her. He waved a sheaf of photos in her face. "How did these get out on the Internet?"
"They're my pictures, they were on my phone, but I didn't put them up! I told you so already," Eponine replied. This line of questioning was beginning to grow tiresome, especially since this was asked nearly every day, but some part of her still drew some satisfaction from seeing the results of her attempts at photography. 'At least I picked a good vantage point,' she thought, feeling grateful once more for her skill in climbing unnoticed to places like on top of the sound system rig.
Gisquet swore under his breath and pulled one photo out of the stack. "Him?"
Eponine bit her lip as she looked once again at the image of a young man so bright and fearsome that for a moment when she'd first caught sight of him at the demonstration, she had to pinch herself to ensure she was actually in the waking world. "I never met him before."
"Are you sure?" Gisquet demanded.
Eponine managed a nod. 'I'd know him anywhere though,' she caught herself thinking. The cadence and fire of his words was as potent in person as on paper or a computer screen, perhaps even more so. She willed herself to look Gisquet in the face, even though she was half sure that something, perhaps her hesitation or a quirk of her lips had already betrayed her. "I have nothing more to say."
"Then right this way Miss Thenardier," Gisquet ordered, gesturing for her to step out of the cell to where a detachment of guards waited.
She had thought of protesting about the fact that she hadn't even spoken to a lawyer, that she had not yet been given breakfast and was in desperate need of a bath, but she thought the better of it when she felt the ropes around her wrists being loosened only to be replaced with the chill of handcuffs. She could feel an ache starting in her temples as she realized what she would have to do; she would have to lie to protect this man as well as Cosette, Marius, and the rest of their friends, and if she was found out she was sure she would never see the light of day again. 'Why do it? For all you know they may be dead or arrested as well. You have to save yourself,' the thought taunted her but she shook it off as she was ushered into a crowded prison wagon. If that was so, then who could have posted the pictures?
She liked to think that it had been him, but that was a foolish fancy at best, given the circumstances of their encounter.
The noontime light was blinding, such that some of the other detainees stumbled as they were marched out of the wagon and up the courthouse steps. On seeing this Eponine forced herself to stand up straight and put one foot in front of the other when it was her turn to leave the wagon. As soon as she felt the heat of the sun on her dirty cheeks she heard a cheer coming from seemingly far off. Her jaw dropped when she caught sight of a whole throng of her classmates and other familiar faces from school, standing behind the hastily erected police barrier. Some of them were holding signs picketing the arraignment, others had red ribbons on their clothes and in their hair, while still more had nothing but their presence, but the fury in this motley crowd was so palpable that it almost made Eponine feel light headed.
As she was pushed forward she caught sight of Azelma and Gavroche now climbing on the police barrier."Who told you?" she shouted to them.
"We got a call!" Azelma yelled over the din.
"From who?" Eponine shrieked. "I didn't get a phone in prison!"
Gavroche whistled and waved to someone in the crowd, but standing closer to the courthouse entrance. Eponine stopped for a moment when she realized who her brother had been calling to. 'You terrible, silly, awesome man!' she would have said had she been nearer to him, now that she felt that all too familiar rush of indignation mingled with affection wash over her being.
It took some more time till at last all the detainees were lined up in front of the judge for the reading of charges. The judge sonorously read through each charge for each person, remaining impassive regardless of the pleas of "guilty" or "not guilty". At last he arrived at her name: "Eponine Marie Sorel Thenardier, you are facing charges of inciting to sedition-"
Instantly the gallery erupted with boos, catcalls, and derisive laughter. A young man who she recognized as her seatmate Grantaire bellowed, "Shame!" before being shushed by his companions. Azelma's eyes were wide with disbelief while Gavroche was swearing openly. Cosette was shaking her head and talking quickly with Marius. Only Enjolras remained silent but it seemed for a moment, at least to Eponine, that there was a flicker of worry and concern in his expression when he looked her way.
The judge pounded the gavel several times to call for order. "—inciting to sedition and disturbing the peace," he said irately. His dark eyes scanned the line of detainees. "Is this you?" he asked Eponine pointedly.
Eponine willed herself to ignore the trembling in her knees. "That's my name."
"A girl like you, causing all this trouble?" the judge scoffed. "You wouldn't even have been noticed if you were on stage, so it seems from the newspaper coverage."
At any other time Eponine might have taken umbrage at this asinine comment, but now she found herself on the verge of laughter. "I didn't start it," she said. 'At least not directly.'
The judge coughed before pounding his gavel to quiet the disgruntled murmurs of the crowd. "This is ridiculous; there is no evidence that this lady could have started the ruckus," he snapped at the police officers. "Photographs, muddled testimonies, everyone going this way and that because of the tear gas, what good is that going to do? I'm throwing these charges out."
Eponine did not wait for the official pronouncement but as soon as she heard her handcuffs fall to the floor, she broke free of the line of detainees and rushed to the gallery, knowing that her siblings and their friends would soon be looking for her. As soon as she reached the top of the stairs Cosette pulled her into the cheering, hollering huddle that was their entire group. "Thank goodness you're safe!" Cosette whispered as she hugged Eponine. "They didn't hurt you, did they?"
Eponine shook her head. "I don't scratch easily." All hunger, weariness, and exasperation were forgotten now, more so when she finally locked eyes with the one person in that entire group who had yet to come up to her. "So that's it?" she asked incredulously, wondering why he was so silent, and yet almost fearful that he would walk away now that he was looking at her properly without the safety of paper or the computer screen.
"It won't be, since I don't believe we've been properly introduced yet," Enjolras answered as he took a single step towards her.
Despite his deadpan tone, the knowing warmth in his eyes said it all. Eponine did not hide the smile on her face as she nodded. "I'm Eponine Thenardier."
"Alexandre Enjolras," he said as he held out his hand. "It's an honor to finally meet you."
The simple touch of his fingers finally meeting hers was more than the finest of their turns of phrase.